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Things you need to know about mRNA vaccines

Topics Covered: Biotechnology related issues.

Things you need to know about mRNA vaccines:


Context:

The novel m-RNA vaccine candidate of the Pune-based Gennova Biopharmaceuticals was approved for funding as early as July by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT).

  • Being a biological product that requires genetic manipulation, it needs to be cleared by the Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation (RCGM), a DBT body, before it can approach the Drug Controller General of India for human trials.
  • It is now being said that this vaccine may be ready in March.

First of all, how do vaccines work?

Vaccines work by training the body to recognise and respond to the proteins produced by disease-causing organisms, such as a virus or bacteria.

Traditional vaccines are made up of small or inactivated doses of the whole disease-causing organism, or the proteins that it produces, which are introduced into the body to provoke the immune system into mounting a response.

What are mRNA vaccines?

mRNA vaccines trick the body into producing some of the viral proteins itself.

  • They work by using mRNA, or messenger RNA, which is the molecule that essentially puts DNA instructions into action.
  • Inside a cell, mRNA is used as a template to build a protein.

How it works?

  1. To produce an mRNA vaccine, scientists produce a synthetic version of the mRNA that a virus uses to build its infectious proteins.
  2. This mRNA is delivered into the human body, whose cells read it as instructions to build that viral protein, and therefore create some of the virus’s molecules themselves.
  3. These proteins are solitary, so they do not assemble to form a virus.
  4. The immune system then detects these viral proteins and starts to produce a defensive response to them.

Significance of mRNA vaccines:

There are two parts to our immune system: innate (the defences we’re born with) and acquired (which we develop as we come into contact with pathogens).

  • Classical vaccine molecules usually only work with the acquired immune system and the innate immune system is activated by another ingredient, called an adjuvant.
  • Interestingly, mRNA in vaccines could also trigger the innate immune system, providing an extra layer of defence without the need to add adjuvants.

InstaLinks:

Prelims Link:

  1. What is a vaccine?
  2. How do vaccines work?
  3. Working of the immune system.
  4. What is mRNA?
  5. Potential applications of mRNA vaccines.

Sources: the Hindu.